Desecrated Scriptures and the News Media
James W Watts [+]
News media regularly report desecrations of books of scripture because of religious and political conflicts in various Western, Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian countries. Though political tensions also arise from desecrating sacred sites, objects, and persons, books of scripture have emerged as particularly potent objects of contestation. That is because, as a very old form of media themselves, scriptures encapsulate the religious experiences of many people who are used to handling the physical book with veneration. News of such a book’s desecration thus inverts a common religious experience and can arouse strong and widespread reactions. This chapter describes the effects of ritualizing books of scripture and compares their ritualization in four religious traditions in order to contextualize the phenomenon of desecrating scriptures cross-culturally and explain the political furors aroused by media coverage of particular incidents.